Covering Books

Over the course of Studio Haus's history, many kinds of projects have landed on the projects list. One of the most consistent kinds of project has been book cover design. The esteemed Graywolf Press was one of the first clients in the publishing world to send a project my way. A nonprofit, Graywolf is a leading independent publisher committed to discovering and publishing new works of contemporary and international literature.

I’ve had the privilege of developing covers for some of Graywolf’s internationally-renowned authors: for Pulitzer-Prize-winner Tracy K. Smith; Nobel laureate Tomas Tranströmer; and Mary Jo Bang, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award.

My first cover project from Graywolf Press, for a collection of poems by Catie Rosemurgy, was so incredibly inspiring that I had stars in my eyes. The design concept was based on a poem in the collection called “When She Gets Home From the Grocery Store and Notices the Fireflies, Grace Lies Down Next to the Driveway”:

My first cover developed for the esteemed publisher, Graywolf Press.

My first cover developed for the esteemed publisher, Graywolf Press.

The stars are loose between the houses.
The street of white, unchipped porches
would have me believe we do
get our sprinkling of outer space,
if we stay quiet long enough.

This is the overconfidence bred
by venetian blinds and by painted hooks
from which lobelia baskets are hung
every summer. This is the over-confidence
that gets me out of bed in the morning.

Burn by the back steps. Burn out by the car tire.
Never has apocalypse been as bright blue
or as easy to love and to tease.
My thoughts of rubble never last long.
The doors across the street

always stand. I wish I could doubt
the end of the world will be porch-lit,
a series of sparkles over my neighbor's pool.
The flashes of light reassure me.
The dark reassures me. The lesson of the firefly:

I can expect my smile to be temporary,
my will to be wing-sized.
But the overall effect is beautiful.
The lesson of the firefly:
the delight of large numbers, of losing

track of myself in a long string of zeroes.
On 14th street, the repetition of acorns
and mailboxes is a radical observation.
I can shut up. Life will stutter.
My revolutionary wish

is for a fresh glass of ice cubes,
a full, chilly hand. All night I'll envy
the fireflies’ ability to scatter.
They're lit and they linger
three feet above everyone's yard.

I would show up only at night. I would get less done.
I would see herself repeated
between all the marigolds. Tonight an aerial view of the town
after everyone has turned on their floodlights
is the only way to describe my mood.

After reading this poem, I was so excited to work on the cover concept that I spent far more hours developing it than I could ever bill for. It was such a delightful high to create it—I even modeled for the cover! What's so striking in my memory about this project is that if you look at the original concept the final art was developed from alongside the others presented, it doesn't seem so enticing, yet the client had the foresight to see that it could be developed into something so much better. So, after hiring a photographer, shooting the elements to be incorporated, and many hours of PhotoShopping, the cover took on a sophisticated expression.

Some of the initial cover comps presented for My Favorite Apocalypse by Studio Haus.

Some of the initial cover comps presented for My Favorite Apocalypse by Studio Haus.

Since that cover design was developed, many other books have come through the doors of Studio Haus. And not just the covers, but interior content as well. I still have stars in my eyes when I work on these projects. The diversity of titles out there continues to reinforce my belief in the endless creativity of existence. And there are so many ways to share that creativity.

A small sampling of covers created by Studio Haus.

A small sampling of covers created by Studio Haus.

We know that the world of publishing has had some major shifts in the past decade, much like those experienced in the music industry. Digital media continues to create great new opportunities but at the same time makes it harder for older methods of publishing to maintain their market share. Consumers are more often than not looking for bargains rather than considering the repercussions of not rewarding creative thinking with fair compensation. This has been the burden of creative life since the first pen was set to paper. But look at the rewards to all who partake in consuming the fruits of these talents. Can you imagine a world without the writings of your favorite authors? I certainly don't even want to imagine it.

Hence my continued excitement to learn new approaches.

More and more authors are beginning to self-publish, so I was very excited when the Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville teamed up with a great new organization called The Porch Writers’ Collective to host a panel discussion called Paths to Publishing. I saw a great opportunity to meet others in the industry and to learn from their perspectives.

The diversity of the panel represented the changes in book publishing: the president of a medium-sized publisher (Turner Publishing Company); an editor and publisher for self-publishing authors (Wandering In the Words Press); a literary publicity firm (JKS Communications); and a successful self-published co-author who spent many years working for an esteemed New York publishing house (Anne Shayne).

The Paths to Publishing panel sponsored by the Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville and The Porch Writers' Collective.

The Paths to Publishing panel sponsored by the Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville and The Porch Writers' Collective.

My oh my, this panel's knowledge base and advice could have held attendees’ attention for hours! Yet the biggest takeaways for authors were to know what you want to accomplish and how much sweat equity you're willing to invest, to seek out and hire a good book editor and designer, and, above all, to have patience. It's a rare title that bursts onto the market to immediate critical acclaim and success. The market is competitive and fickle. It can take years for a title to get into potential readers' hands, especially when an author is working on her own. But there's no better achievement for an author than to publish and do it well. Clearly authors should do their research and enlist the services of people who know the business.

If you or someone you know would like to publish a title, please contact Studio Haus to add the design element to the process. Studio Haus can offer many years of experience to a solid team of professionals to help launch a book into places an author might never imagine. And if you need help in assembling that team, Studio Haus can help there too. It's what I love to do!